Plexus refers to a network of blood vessels, a series of intertwined parts. In Aurélien Bory’s portrait performance of Japanese dancer Kaori Ito, it becomes a dramaturgical device through which to a series of scenes are constructed at the interplay between scenography, movement and light.
A cube of string-thin vertical cables emerges on stage, clothed by a stage-wide black fabric enveloping Ito at its centre. The prologue to the performance sees Ito in front of this black mass, with a contact microphone, presenting her breathing, moving, trained body, its sounds and rhythms. Silence punctures the space. There is only this body, and we are confronted with its internal states.
Bory and Ito have collaborated on a performance portrait that doesn’t seek to construct personal narratives, or engage with the dancer’s virtuosity. Plexus doesn’t connote meaning in appropriately tight knots, but navigates its material with hungry curiosity, and do so in an aesthetic realm. Plexus uses the stage as a frame through which to explore mental and physical states, perspectives, materiality and subjectivity. Through the use of light and sound, the scenography becomes the site of Ito’s body as a changing landscape. At times, she appears as a character, wrapped in fabric, hanging mid-air; at others she is simply a body, navigating this visual maze of cables.
Plexus is the second performance portrait for a dancer, following Questcequetudevienes? with flamenco dancer Stéphanie Fuster in 2008. Bory’s challenge is to portray the internal world of the dancer through her own movement, whilst setting it against wider formal and topical concerns. Geometry and architectural perspective have been fundamental to Bory’s work in the past, and in Plexus, they return as modes through which questions of physicality, identity and context are considered.
Ito’s work has, in the past, dealt with subjects like sexuality, memory and narrative, being both muse to others and author in her own practice. In Plexus, there return as physical strategies, as the dancer navigates the depth and height of this maze of cables; at times, concrete images form, but they quickly dissipate against the scenographic landscape. Light cuts through the cables, dividing up the space, whilst Ito moves through the cables, working with and against their physical tension.
Plexus is gripping, if decidedly aesthetic. It behaves like a three-dimensional piece of visual art, in the ways in which it allows narrative to emerge and dissipate, and uses space not just as a context, but as a subject. At times, this means our attention can wander to the depths of the scenographic or the contorting body of the dancer; at others, we note a particular body becoming just another object in motion. There are moments of intimacy and dialogues of scale and perception. Our own position changes in this shifting landscape, and we allow ourselves to sink in for the journey, deep into the fibres.